Will Wright on Game Play and Education

Will Wright's talk at the Summit on Science, Entertainment, and Education looks at how game play can be relevant to education. These are my notes from this talk.

How we process information

Our basic model for processing and acting on data that we receive in the world looks something like this:

- Behavior
- Models (Predictive) ↑
- Schema (Abstractions) ↑
- Metaphors (Patterns) ↑
- Examples (Data) ↑

How our minds work when we play games

Games become relevant in education because they offer a more effective way to use and build knowledge.

Game play is about:

- failing
- changing your model
- repeating

Game players, through experimentation and repeated failure, ramp their model of the game up over iterations of play. Their model becomes more complex as their understanding and ability to succeed increases over each interaction and learning experience.

Wright tells a story about a pottery class, in which a teacher tells one group of students that their grade will be based on one single pot they are produced. The second group is told their grade will be based on the amount of pots they produce. The second group ended up with the highest grades.

When your work is based on building the most rather than creating the perfect work, you fail repeatedly, update your model, and produce the best work.

What makes a good educational experience

Wright applies what James Paul Gee lists as attributes for a good education experience and says these are the same for game play.

- allow identity
- offer a reason to do it
- allow and mitigate risk
- encourage failure
- provide situated meanings: you're learning for things you immediately need
- get you out of ordered problem solving

Blurring the lines of maker/player

In addition to becoming effective tools for learning, the game community is blurring lines between the game ecology and the community. Social experiences afforded by games like Spore and LIttle Big Planet are good examples. Players become creators and contributors. Learning and creation and contribution are one and the same.

Thanks to Alex for pointing me to this vid.